"I think that was the first time in my career that I scored two goals and (the puck) didn't even touch my stick," said Abdelkader, who was credited with goals that went in off his skate and chest.
Abdelkader considered himself fortunate that he was able to play after he sustained a cut on his foot in Edmonton on Friday. The cut required eight to 10 stitches to close.
"I just got my skate fixed (Saturday) morning, and came back for the game and didn't know if I would be able to play or not," he said.
Alex Burrows scored both of Vancouver's goals. His first, which came just 6 seconds in, was the fastest opening goal in Canucks history.
Zetterberg made amends for losing the opening faceoff to Henrik Sedin before Burrows' quick goal.
"We wanted (Henrik Sedin's) line to play against Zetterberg, and they did a real good job in the first period and part way through the second," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "In the third period they had Datsyuk going out there, and Hank had a tough time against that line.
"Their top players were obviously a little bit better than ours."
Vancouver, which outshot Detroit 35-26, allowed one power-play goal in three chances, but the Canucks were 0-for-6 on their advantages.
The Canucks lost for the first time in three games.
Burrows started the scoring quickly when he took a cross-ice pass from Daniel Sedin and fired a shot just inside the post from the top of the right circle. The goal was Burrows' first in 11 games.
Burrows broke Trevor Linden's record for Vancouver's fastest first goal -- 9 seconds -- set against Anaheim on Jan. 16, 1994. It was the fourth fastest in NHL history.
But the Canucks generated few dangerous opportunities afterward, despite outshooting Detroit by a wide margin in the first 30 minutes.
"It was a tough start, especially in this building," Howard said. "You don't want to give them momentum like that, because it can get pretty loud really quick.
"So I thought we did a great job in responding and not letting it get us down."
Abdelkader made it 1-1 at 6:08 of the first period when Datsyuk's pass went in off his skate.
Burrows had another excellent scoring chance with just under nine minutes left in the first, but Howard came across the crease and made a diving glove save as the Vancouver winger one-timed Jannik Hansen's pass from the opposite post.
The Canucks lost forward David Booth to a leg injury in the final minute of the first period as he raced to the puck in the Detroit corner to beat an icing call. He got to the puck in time, but he was checked into the boards and wound up under a pile of players.
He couldn't put any weight on his left leg as he glided off the ice and didn't return for the start of the second period.
The Canucks ran into penalty trouble in the second period when Burrows' high-sticking infraction nullified a Vancouver power play. Maxim Lapierre's subsequent tripping penalty gave the Red Wings a two-man advantage for 1:16.
With Lapierre still in the box, Zetterberg fired in a pass from Datsyuk.
Hansen had a chance to draw the Canucks even on a penalty shot about three minutes later, after he was hauled down on a breakaway by Abdelkader. But he clanked a shot off the corner of the post and crossbar.
Zetterberg increased Detroit's lead to 3-1 just 1:20 into the third when he whipped in Valtteri Filppula's pass.
Cleary widened the gap with a wrist shot from the slot about four and a half minutes later. He also scored for the first time since the previous game with the Canucks, thanks to some more nice passing from Joakim Andersson and Damien Brunner.
Vancouver had a two-man advantage for 1:20 but couldn't get any closer.
Abdelkader scored his second goal of the night at 14:44 of the third period as he jammed the puck past Roberto Luongo. The goal was awarded after it appeared Luongo had kept the puck out, but video showed it crossed the goal line.
Burrows scored his second goal as he backhanded in his own rebound with just under three minutes remaining. The goals were his first in 11 games.
Detroit forward Patrick Eaves played in his 400th NHL game. ... The Canucks wore Vancouver Millionaires replica jerseys in honor of the team that played from 1912-22 in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. ... The Red Wings have lost defenseman Kyle Quincey indefinitely to a fractured cheekbone sustained Friday in Edmonton. Ian White took his place in the lineup. ... Vancouver winger Zack Kassian sat out because of a recurring lower-back injury.
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VANCOUVER, CANADA - MARCH 16: Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks warms up for their NHL game against the...